Sophocles" Antigone takes place in ancient Thebes at a time when men were warriors and women were delicate. The feminist movement has not yet come to pass, and yet one young woman, Antigone, stands out, defying the decree made by her uncle, her king. She is passionately motivated by love and loyalty to her family and refuses to compromise in any way when King Creon puts his royal word against divine law and human sentiment and declares that the body of Antigone's brother, Polynices, be left unburied and forbids anyone to even mourn him. Disregarding Creon's decree, Antigone buries the body of Polynices and gives him the last rights. She knows that if she is caught death is the punishment, but her self-sacrificing attitude shows incredible strength. Sophocles develops the character of Antigone throughout the tragedy, using her to represent family values and female strength. Antigone embodies strong feminine characteristics to stand up for a divine and universal principle demanded by the deities. .
Sophocles is aware of the impact of gender on Antigone and makes the position of women an important theme in the play. Ismene uses her gender as an excuse for not standing up against the law, saying her gender makes her and Antigone vulnerable. Ismene provides an interesting contrast to her stronger sister throughout the play. Although Antigone does not explicitly stress her gender, Creon does. His stubbornness to back down later in the play is because he feels the triumph of a woman is unacceptable. Antigone refuses to let herself be dominated by any man or human law and instead chooses to follow the divine law.
Sophocles also portrays Antigone as having a morbid fascination with death. In the opening of the play, she speaks of laying down in the earth beside Polynices and her words reveal a kind of longing for it. She is captivated with attending to the next world, and the law of the gods overshadows any human law in her mind.